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Questions Of The Day (1-6)

Questions For Oral Answer Tuesday, 20 July 1999

The following are paraphrases of today's questions for oral answer. They are not complete or official, the official record of Parliamentary proceedings is Hansard, which is not finalised some days after the event.

Question 1.

Rt Hon. Helen Clark to the Prime Minister Jenny Shipley:

Q: Does she accept the criticism by the Government Administration Committee of her decision to have Cabinet only meet fortnightly; if not, why not?

A: (Acting PM Wyatt Creech on behalf) No and it is worth noting that neither the PM nor anyone else was given the opportunity to speak to the committee. There has been no shambles. We have found a way to run cabinet much more efficiently. Fortnightly meetings mean much more efficient and effective use of officials and ministers time. The quality of decision making has been sped up and enhanced. Meetings are quicker because more is being prepared for cabinet by committees. Cabinet meetings are now usually concluded in the morning. It is typical of Labour and the Alliance to equate quality of decision making to the amount of time spent at meetings. Quality has nothing to do with this. (To Helen Clark who accused the government of many U-turns and back-downs) Perhaps the member hasn't noticed the successful ACC and Producer Board reforms - both supported widely in the community.

Question 2.

Alec Neill to the Prime Minister Jenny Shipley:

Q: What indications has she had from Chinese Premier, Zhu Rongji, concerning the future of our trading relationship with China?

A: (Acting PM Wyatt Creech on behalf) Chinese Premiere Zhu Rongji has assured me that problems with tariffs on wool have been sorted out. New tariff quotas have now been issued. From the point of view of NZ this is a very good outcome. The PM has also concluded an agreement with China that NZ - with Australia - is now an approved destination. This should see the number of tourists increase by 50% in the coming year.

Question 3.

Rod Donald to the Associate Minister of Social Services, Work and Income Peter McCardle:

Q: Is he satisfied with the performance of the Work and Income New Zealand Chief Executive Christine Rankin and the reported "astonishing results" achieved by the department she leads?

A: Since the creation of WINZ we are beginning to see the results we have sought. For the first time we have seen a drop in DPB beneficiaries and a reduction in the number of entrenched unemployed. At the same time we have a significantly cheaper department to run. The CEO clearly deserves some credit for these achievements. There has been a lot of talk about expenditure and accountability. The remarkable untold story is that this department is saving $160 million in running costs over its first ten years. We consider the issues around the chartering matter very seriously. We have sent a firm and serious letter to the state services commissioner which I intend to release shortly.

Q: (Phil Goff - Labour) Can he confirm he is considering asking for the CEO's resignation?

A: That member should well know that ministers do not suspend CEO's - despite the fact it is their act - can I suggest to the gallery (Speaker - no you can't). The opposition for the nine months since this department was established are stretching the grounds of credibility to breaking point. The opposition should stop whipping up silly little criticisms.

Question 4.

Owen Jennings to the Minister for Food, Fibre, Biosecurity and Border Control John Luxton:

Q: What plans does the Government have to reform the New Zealand Wool Board and how will they affect the growers' reserves held by the Board?

A: (David Carter on behalf) The government has been discussing options with the Wool Board. Key issues include the future use of reserves. Government is waiting on the outcome of board consultations with farmers at present and is of the view that the use of reserves is a matter for farmers to decide. I am unaware of a confidential report on a plan to lock the reserves away.

Q: Can he assure the house that nothing will be done to the Wool intelligence activities of the board

A: I acknowledge that the board has a wonderful network and it would be the government's.

The board holds cash reserves of approxiimately $5100 each for 22,000 wool growers.

(Sheep industry development plan document tabled by Owen Jennings.)

Question 5.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters to the Prime Minister Jenny Shipley:

Q: Did she have a business meeting last month with Indonesian businessman James Riady of the Lippo Group; if so, did the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade or the Security Intelligence Service officials know about Mr Riady's background before he was invited to visit New Zealand?

A: (Wyatt Creech on behalf) Ambassador Riady visited NZ as a special envoy of the President of Indonesia. The PM met Mr Riady and the Indonesian Ambassador. MFAT was fully aware of the issues surrounding his relationship with President Clinton. I am aware that claims have been made about Mr Riady in a book by Ian Wishart concerning President Clinton and drugs. Ambassador Riady visited as envoy with special responsibility for Asia and Oceania.

Q: (A wit) Can the minister confirm that Winston Peters like Ian Wishart - NZ's leading proponent of conspiracy theories - howling at the moon?

(Speaker - "I will rule that out" - Winston Peters - "rule it out if you will because shortly he will be ruled out.")

Question 6.

Steve Maharey to the Associate Minister of Social Services, Work and Income Peter McCardle:

Q: Has he received any reports regarding the effectiveness of Christine Rankin as Chief Executive of Work and Income New Zealand; if so, is he totally satisfied with her performance in that role to date?

A: I have had various reports on the achievements of WINZ. I would say that while I have serious concerns about chartered flights Ms Rankin deserves credit for achievements of Christine Rankin.

Q: (Maharey - Labour) Can he confirm that Christine Rankin told staff not to tell any one they were from WINZ?

A: No and I suggest that claim be taken in the same manner as false claims made by that member yesterday concerning the cancellation fee for an upcoming conference.

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